MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Response: Parents of very or extremely low birth weight infants are less likely to have subsequent children after preterm birth. We assessed whether this phenomenon extends over the whole range of prematurity.
We now show that parents of preterm-born infants (gestational age less than 37 completed weeks of gestation) have fewer subsequent children than do parents of term born infants. This is not limited to the extreme group of parents of children born very preterm, but is even seen within the large groups of parents of infants born less preterm.
MedicalResearch.com: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?
Response: Our findings add a novel viewpoint to the discussion about the impacts of prematurity: premature birth has not only significant consequences on the health of an individual but a substantial population impact. In a high-income country, this population impact of preterm birth is mainly due to the “missing siblings”, whose number is more than three-fold higher than that of preterm infants who die in infancy.
The study results may reflect the crisis a premature birth may cause for the parents and its far-reaching impact. The birth of a premature infant is often a surprise, and can place the parents in a situation where their hopes and resources do not meet their expectations on parenting or the challenges during early childhood.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Response: The current study shows a relationship between decreasing gestational age and fewer parental subsequent children after preterm birth. Further studies are needed to identify potential modifiable factors in order to better support the families of preterm born infants for example at well baby –clinics.
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The Missing Siblings of Infants Born Preterm
Suvi Alenius, Eero Kajantie, Reijo Sund, Pieta Näsänen-Gilmore, Marja Vääräsmäki, Mika Gissler, Petteri Hovi
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